Cinco de Mayo

May 05, 2008

Ethnicity is an interesting topic of discussion, whether you’re comparing presidential candidates, having a heated debate about immigration policies or making dinner table conversation with people you’re meeting for the first time. For example, my English/Irish heritage seems obvious from my appearance, and yet Spanish was my first language.

And speaking of Spanish, one holiday that is recognized on a regional basis in Mexico (mainly in the state of Puebla) has taken on a larger significance here in the United States, where Cinco de Mayo festivities celebrate Mexican heritage and national pride. I’m taking the liberty here of broadening it even further to recognize some of the Hispanic women AAUW has honored for their contributions to the betterment of humanity.

Originally designed to provide Latin American women with opportunities for graduate and postgraduate study in the United States, the AAUW International Fellowships program awarded its first fellowship in 1917 to Virginia Alvarez-Hussey. She studied medicine at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and then returned to Venezuela, where she became a specialist in the treatment of leprosy. Another International Fellow was Marina Nunez del Prado (1940), who became one of Bolivia’s premiere artists and whose sculpture Madre y Nino is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.

In 1997, Antonia Hernandez, former president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, received the AAUW Achievement Award. In 2006, Consuelo Castillo Kickbush received an AAUW Women of Distinction award. Formerly the highest-ranking Hispanic women in the Combat Support Field of the U.S. Army, Kickbush has spent the past 10 years dedicated to empowering a new generation of Hispanic leaders. She has worked with over a million children and their parents across the United States through Educational Achievement Services, a company she founded in 1994.

María Otero, a 2007 AAUW Woman of Distinction, is president and CEO of ACCION International, which pioneered the idea of making small loans to the self-employed poor beginning in 1973 in Recife, Brazil. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA), a 2004 Woman of Distinction, co-sponsored the PACT Act (H.R. 5774), providing financial assistance to state training programs that prepare women for employment in high-wage, high-skill fields where they are often underrepresented. And in 2008 … wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

These are just a few of the Hispanic women that AAUW has honored. What Hispanic woman do you wish to honor by sharing her story here? As for me, my father was stationed in Bogota, Columbia, when I was young, and my first year of school was en una escuela. While I may not have any actual Hispanic blood, I honor the heritage I have in my heart.

Christy Jones, CAE By:   |   May 05, 2008


  1. Avatar Gloria says:

    I think AAUW is already making strides in reaching out to diverse audiences–across the U.S. and internationally. Maybe we aren’t “tooting our own horn” enough. In our own backyards members are engaged in projects that take them out of their comfort zones and work with girls who are at-risk, come from single parent homes, low-income familes, girls of color, and those affected by low self-esteem and relational aggression. There are also efforts to ensure that Latino and African-American girls have access to educational opportunities, college preparation and career opportunities through Community Action Grants and other Fellowships and Grants offered by AAUW. International Fellowships assist women from more than 40 countries each year to achieve their educational goals. Partnerships with CARE and One Shared World highlight the importance of breaking down barriers for women globally. Of course there will always be those who look at diversity through a narrow lens, but as U.S. demographics continue to change our programming can and should meet the challenge.

  2. Avatar Karen Jackle says:

    How can we get our programs to focus on diversity instead of cultural tourism. Although it is great to dine at a Mexican restaurant or serve Mexican food for Cinco de Mayo, it seems more so than other programs, we overlook the point to bring a reason to what we do and a mission reflection in what we do to programs that feature a specific group within our American identity.

  3. Seconded!

    The struggle continues for true equality and for due recognition for women across our Troubled World.

    After maybe four days and both a well of major discontent with that country – and not only from womens’ groups – and around the world, the Malaysian Prime Minister has announced that his Government’s proposal that would have required all Single Women aged from 18 through 35 (approx) to obtain a Letter of Approval from their Family Head, Imam at the Mosque, and similar, before they could apply for permission to travel overseas, has been rescinded.

    That in 2008 in a supposedly developed, supposed Democracy, male decision-makers at the highest level of the National Government could seek to introduce such a very clearly Islam-influenced restriction on Malaysian women who are generally well educated and modern in attitude and outlook, only reinforces my statement above about the struggle continuing.

    Malaysia: Truly a most interesting, good-value part of Asia to visit.

    However, with such bizarre proposals clearly possible from its Government and related religious factions, Malaysia most certainly NOT, as its Tourism slogan claims, Truly Asia, at least as a True Democracy ; and thank goodness for that.

    Peace and Good Health,

    Graham Hornel
    City Beach
    Western Australia

  4. Avatar Lori says:

    As a Latina, I was fortunate to meet Ms. Kickbush some years ago and am glad to see her once again being recognized for all the work she has done.

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